CAPE TOWN – South Africa has joined more than 55 countries in signing the declaration on gender responsive standards and standards development, in an effort to increase participation and representation of women in standardization.

The declaration, which is an initiative of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), was signed by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS), on the occasion of the 42nd annual general meeting of the International Organization of Standardization (ISO), in Cape Town on Tuesday.

Globally, there is a lack of participation and representation of women in standardisation, says UNECE, which works with national standards bodies in various countries.  

For society to move towards gender balance, women need to be included in standards development processes. 

The involvement of women at the fundamental stage of standards development will ensure inclusivity at all stages of society as standards are implemented.

“This declaration on gender responsive standards is an important step for South Africa as we begin to meaningfully include women in all decision making platforms, beginning with standards development,” said trade and industry group chief operating officer, Jodi Scholtz. 

“While there are women who participate in standards development processes, they are in the minority and become scarcer still in the development of technological and scientific standards. 

"Technical committees which are open to individuals from all walks of life are responsible for the development of standards and it is imperative for women to get involved in these.” 

“Technical committees develop the parameters and specifications for a range of products and systems and is extremely powerful to ensure inclusivity.  

"In sectors such as mining and construction, which are largely male dominated, women can play a pivotal role in resetting their environments to be more inclusive and to overcoming barriers to participation.”

In SABS signing the declaration on behalf of South Africa, the organisation said it commits to engaging with government departments, women’s groups and non-governmental institutions to ensure that the needs of women and girls are included in technical committees, through encouraging participation in technical committees. 

SABS said it will also ensure gender sensitive criteria are adopted in the standards and commits to employing more women in senior positions within the organisation.

“Women are under-represented in various structures of society. Improving participation at a technical committee level will greatly enhance the gender imbalance in South Africa, through the inclusion of gender sensitive technical specifications in standards that set the guidelines," said Scholtz.

"Influencing the development of standards for pay parity, infrastructure and sanitation requirements, protective equipment and clothing are some of the ways the standards development process can benefit women. 

"The more women are present and involved at all levels of society, the more their voices and interests can be better represented.”  

South Africa joins countries such as Austria, Canada, Colombia, Congo, Denmark, and Germany, among others, that have signed the declaration.

- African News Agency (ANA)